Jun 16, 2019

Israel's Netanyahu inaugurates non-existent 'Trump Heights' town in the Golan

Netanyahu gives a speech before the newly-unveiled sign for the new settlement of "Ramat Trump", or "Trump Heights." Photo: JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman hosted a special ceremony Sunday to dedicate a new town in the Golan Heights called "Ramat Trump," or "Trump Heights" in English. The only problem is that for now, this is only a "paper town," meaning it does not yet exist and is not even in planning stages.

Why it matters: This is a public relations stunt meant for a domestic audience on the eve of the upcoming elections. It's also significant for foreign policy reasons, intended for a target audience of one — President Trump. Trump's recognition of the Golan Heights in March gave a dramatic boost to Netanyahu's election campaign. Netanyahu will need Trump's help again soon with the new September 17 elections looming.

Details: Netanyahu took the whole Israeli cabinet to the Golan Heights today and stated the cabinet will pass a resolution to establish the new town. But the cabinet resolution that passed actually said the government couldn't make a decision like that during an election period.

  • So what was actually decided is that the Ministry of Housing will start preliminary planning work. For now, there is not even a fund allocated to build the new town.
  • But what Netanyahu and his people did do was place a huge sign with the name of the new town in the spot the town might be located sometime in the future. Netanyahu and Ambassador Friedman unveiled the sign in front of the cameras and praised Trump.

It did the trick. Several hours later, Trump tweeted: "Thank you Prime Minister Netanyahu and the state of Israel for this great honor."

Go deeper: Countries around the world criticize Trump's Golan announcement

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 41 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins